It’s spätzle in Germany. In Switzerland it’s spätzli. Here in the U.S., where we lazy Americans despise umlauts and other funny puncuations, it’s spelled spaetzle. And in Hungary, which seems to always be a contrarian troublemaker, it’s knöpfle.
So, what is spaetzle? It’s a pasta that cooks like a dumpling and tastes like a little bit of heaven. It’s a side dish accented with cheese. It’s the tidy little bed for a hearty main course. It’s a breakfast with eggs. It is, in short, a wonderfully tasty, amazingly versatile, incredibly easy dish that you’ll want to pair in culinary experiments with many of your favorite dishes.
What you’ll need:
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 1 tsp. salt (and more for salted water in which to boil the spaetzle)
- 1 ½ cups water
- 2 eggs
- Butter for toasting the spaetzle
Mix or sift together the flour and salt. Whisk together the eggs and water. Blend the egg/water mixture into the flour and salt. The result should be the consistency of pancake batter (see photograph below). If too thick, thin with water. If too thin, thicken with additional flour. Let your batter sit for thirty minutes.
While resting the batter for that thirty minutes, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Place your spaetzle maker over the pot (you may want to wear mitts; steam can burn!). Working in batches, pour batter into the spaetzle maker’s bin. Slide the spaetzle bin back and forth across grate, causing thick drops of batter to fall into the boiling water. The spaetzle will rise after two or three minutes. With a slotted spoon or other draining device, scoop out the spaetzle as it floats to the top. Drain well and set aside in a large bowl as you continue with subsequent batches.
Heat a large cast iron skillet to medium hot. Toss in some butter and some of the spaetzle. Don’t crowd the pan — once again you’ll be working in batches. Breaking apart any clumps, toss the spaetzle in the butter until nicely browned and slightly toasted. Remove the batch and continue with the remaining spaetzle until all of it is toasted.
If this spaetzle is to be used as a side dish, consider tossing it with freshly grated Parmesan or a flavorful Swiss Emmentaler or Gruyère cheese. If this is part of your main course, use the spaetzle in place of rice, pasta, or even potatoes. This is especially effective with hearty, thick-sauced dishes such as Hungarian goulash, German sauerbraten, or dark gravy-based dishes.
What else can you do with it, especially the leftovers? Try serving it the next day for breakfast by topping it with a sunny side up or over easy eggs in place of grits or hash browns.
So, just how versatile is spaetzle? Take a look at the dish below. Looks like Hungarian goulash, doesn’t it? It isn’t. It’s actually my not-yet-world-famous New Mexico-style chili colorado con puerco (translation: pork in red chili). Remind me sometime and I might give you that recipe as well.